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G20 Initiatives to Support the Global EconomyThe G20 is a group of 20 leading nations (19 countries and the European Union) that gather for high-level discussions on macro-financial, socio-economic and development issues on a global scale. Together, they comprise almost 90% of global GDP and 80% of global trade. This year, the G20 summit will be held from November 21-22, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Supporting the Global Economy Amid COVID-19

This October, the G20 highlighted the importance of prioritizing the global fight against COVID-19 and doing “whatever it takes” to support the global economy. As part of their plan to bring COVID-19 under control, the G20 has pledged to invest upwards of $5 trillion to support the global economy. This is in response to the widespread economic consequences of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

The U.N. has previously spoken out about the importance of the G20 coming together to develop a plan for tackling the novel coronavirus. In March 2020, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the G20 directly in New York, saying that “solidarity is essential, among the G20 and with the developing world, including countries in conflict.” He added that the pandemic requires a “war-time plan to fight it.”

“While the liquidity of the financial system must be assured, our emphasis must be on the human dimension. We need to concentrate on people, keeping households afloat and businesses solvent, able to protect jobs,” Guterres continued.

Guterres also called for debt relief, economic and social support to developed countries and a stimulus package.

Solutions to Support the Global Economy

To support the global economy as a whole, the G20 will likely be required to heed the aforementioned requests from the U.N. Additionally, economic forecasts show that developing countries are at much greater risk of economic anxiety due to the socio-economic effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic, in contrast to developed countries which are already showing signs toward economic recovery.

The G20 has now also agreed for the first time on a “Common Framework” to handle low-income countries facing debt, which is a monumental step forward for global debt relief. This framework is expected to be finalized at the November meeting.

Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the IMF has commented on this achievement. “I am encouraged by G20 discussions on a Common Framework for Sovereign Debt Resolution as well as on our call for improving the architecture for sovereign debt resolution, including private sector participation,” said Georgieva on October 15, 2020.

The G20 has also agreed to extend the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) by six months. This means it will now freeze official bilateral debt payments until the end of 2020. The G20 has also stated that another six-month extension will be considered in April. This is significant progress from the G20’s past stance regarding the global debt agenda.

Katherine Musgrave
Photo: Flickr

Investing in Peace
The World Bank recently estimated that, by 2030, up to two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor would live in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS). FCS have serious impacts on poorer countries: conflicts reduce GDP growth, on average, by 2% a year and force millions of people to flee their homes. The number of forcibly displaced people worldwide has more than doubled since 2012, exceeding 74 million in 2018. Of these people, almost 26 million are refugees, the highest percentage ever recorded, with developing countries hosting 85%. This puts a financial and social strain on host countries while also devastating generations of refugees. Constant displacement makes it difficult for refugees to maintain a stable source of income, have consistent access to basic necessities and receive an education. In fact, one in five people in countries that FCS affects suffers simultaneously from inadequate monetary, educational and basic infrastructure resources, making social mobility difficult. As a result, investing in peace is very important.

The Correlation Between FCS and Poverty

There seems to be a correlation between living in FCS and poverty, as the 43 countries with the highest poverty rates in the world are in FCS in Sub-Saharan Africa. World Bank data shows that economies in FCS have maintained poverty rates of over 40% in the past decade, while economies that have escaped FCS have cut their poverty rates by more than half. On an individual level, a person living in FCS is 10 times more likely to experience poverty than a person living in a country that has not experienced fragility or conflict in the past 20 years.

A solution to poverty might be investing in peace: invest in businesses, organizations or development agencies that work to lessen the prevalence of FCS around the world. While humanitarian interventions may bring about peace in the short term, they often do not address development after the establishment of peace. In addition, many conflicts around the world have become protracted and complicated, making humanitarian interventions less effective in the long run. Development agencies, on the other hand, work to establish peace in three-time frames: before, during and after conflict.

Before Conflict

One important step in lessening the prevalence of FCS around the world is to prevent conflict before it begins. This means identifying and addressing a point of conflict within a country or community before it becomes widespread, complex and potentially violent. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, emphasized the importance of investing in conflict prevention: “Instead of responding to crises, we need to invest far more in prevention. Prevention works, saves lives and is cost-effective.” Estimates have determined that for every $1 the United States spends on conflict prevention, it saves $16 in future response costs. On a larger scale, this finding emphasizes the importance of investing in peace to curb the need for an expensive humanitarian intervention when the conflict is widespread, complex and violent.

One example of an American law promoting investments in conflict prevention is the Global Fragility Act of 2019. It focuses on U.S. foreign aid to prevent violent conflict in fragile countries and strengthens research to identify foreign assistance programs that are most effective at preventing conflict and violence. The act authorizes $1.15 billion over the next five years to fund violent conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts in countries in FCS. The act also benefits U.S. taxpayers, since violent conflict prevention is much more cost-effective than containing a conflict through humanitarian intervention.

During Conflict

Some development agencies around the world make medium-term to long-term investments in countries with ongoing, protracted conflicts. The investments aim to preserve human capital and strengthen local institutions working to promote peace and protect civilians. These investments serve as a social safety net for those at risk, providing them with basic necessities and services such as access to water, food and education. Violent conflicts can significantly affect the accumulation of human capital in a population, and the effects can be long-lasting if the conflict is prolonged across generations. Thus, it is important to provide people with this social safety net to ensure that they can rebuild their lives economically and socially after the conflict ends.

A successful example of investment in a country amid conflict is the World Bank’s investments in Yemen. Yemen has been in crisis for nearly a decade, since the Houthis overthrew its government, resulting in what the U.N. has called “the worst [humanitarian crisis] in the world.” Millions of people have been internally displaced while suffering from medical shortages and threats of famine. The World Bank’s International Development Association has allocated $400 million to creating jobs and providing refugees with essential resources under its Emergency Crisis Response Project (ECRP). As a result, 4.3 million people have received access to community services (water, sanitation, better roads, etc.) and 9.5 million workdays have emerged. Another component of the ECRP is a $448.58 million cash transfer to poor and vulnerable households. As of April 9, 2020, the transfers had reached 1.42 million households or 9 million individuals. The World Bank’s Engagement Strategy for Yemen 2020-2021 will continue funding for the ECRP and other initiatives to provide essential services, preserve Yemen’s human capital and strengthen local organizations helping those in need. 

After Conflict

Investing in post-conflict peacebuilding is another way in which development agencies can help those living in FCS. Investments in peacebuilding can supplement humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts by promoting economic and social growth after a conflict has ended. An important part of promoting economic growth is investing in micro to medium-sized businesses as a means to create jobs and jumpstart the local economy. It is also important to invest in the government to ensure that it can provide its citizens with essential services and resources well after the conflict has ended.

One agency investing in post-conflict peacebuilding is the United Nations (U.N.) Peacebuilding Fund (PBF). The PBF is a financial instrument used to sustain peace in countries in FCS. The PBF invests with other U.N. entities, governments, multilateral banks, NGOs and national multi-donor trust funds. Since its inception, 58 member states have contributed to the fund, with the allocation of $772 million to 41 recipient countries from 2006 to 2017. The Secretary General’s PBF 2020-2024 Strategy calls for the investment of $1.5 billion to countries in FCS over the next five years. The largest distribution of funds (35%) will go towards facilitating transitions from humanitarian missions to peacebuilding and future development. 

Looking Forward

Preventing, creating and maintaining peace in FCS is a daunting task that may take years to accomplish in certain areas. It is important to invest in peace at all three stages of conflict to save lives, save money and preserve resources. There are currently numerous multilateral aid agencies investing billions of dollars into countries in FCS, and one would hope that these efforts, along with humanitarian interventions, will lessen the prevalence of FCS around the world. Investing in peace could be the beginning of the end of global poverty, and if the world works together to lessen FCS, it could lift millions of people across out of poverty globally.

Harry Yeung
Photo: Flickr 

gender inequality during covid-19Pandemics have far-reaching impacts, such as economic downturns and overburdened healthcare systems. Previous outbreaks, such as Zika and Ebola, revealed that infectious diseases tend to highlight existing structural problems in countries with regard to age, race and gender. In fact, recent data from the pandemic has shown that the outbreak is deepening already existing gender inequalities. According to the U.N. Women’s current analysis of the situation, there are five critical areas where women are impacted the most that must be addressed immediately. These areas include the increase in the risk of gender-based violence due to lockdowns and stay-at-home mandates. COVID-19 has also exacerbated unemployment the unequal distribution of care and domestic work. Additionally, despite the increase in gender inequality during COVID-19, many policy responses to the pandemic do not involve gender-based planning.

Gender Inequality During COVID-19

According to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “Already we are seeing a reversal in decades of limited and fragile progress on gender equality and women’s rights. And without a concerned response, we risk losing a generation or more of gains.” Guterres also touched on the rise of unpaid care work due to school closures. The care of seniors and children disproportionately falls on women who must abandon paid work to care for these individuals. This is one example of gender inequality during COVID-19, as an existing inequality has worsened amidst the pandemic.

Inadequate PPE is another pre-existing condition that has worsened for women during the pandemic. About 70% to 90% of healthcare workers are women, yet protective equipment is usually made to fit men. This means that women who are putting their lives at risk every day to care for those infected with COVID-19 are at a higher risk of infection. Guterres put out a call to action to protect women’s rights globally and make sure that the pandemic does not reverse progress on gender equality. The U.N.’s response to this has three phases. These include the health response, the mitigation of the social and economic crises and building a more equal future for women after the pandemic.

U.N. Women’s Response

U.N. Women is focusing on many different areas to respond to gender inequality during COVID-19. It is working to raise awareness about these issues and supporting data collection and assessments. U.N. Women also provides access to essential services, supports women-run enterprises and engages the private sector for aid. With these actions, U.N. Women hopes to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on increased domestic violence, unpaid care work and economic inequality. U.N. Women also hopes to involve women affected by COVID-19 in decision-making and leadership positions to fight for gender equality.

A Global Effort

U.N. Women has offices around the globe that connect with as many countries as possible. For example, U.N. Women Afghanistan has launched a COVID-19 prevention program called Salam for Safety. This program engages women as central leaders in containing the spread of the disease. U.N. Women Vietnam is working with UNICEF to ensure the safety of women and stop the spread of COVID-19 in quarantine centers. Similarly, U.N. Women China has created programs to engage women and raise awareness about gender inequality during COVID-19. U.N. Women also has existing programs that it is scaling up to support women during this time.

It is clear that this pandemic is harming progress made on gender equality in the past few decades. However, the support of the private and public sectors globally can help maintain this progress. The inequalities highlighted by COVID-19 may provide a good opportunity to recognize all the work that remains before we can achieve total gender equality.

Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic
The Syrian Arab Republic is a country in the Middle East that has a rich and unique history going as far back as 10,000 years ago. More recently, political instability led to the Syrian civil war which has created a humanitarian crisis that extends far beyond its borders. It has been nearly a decade since the Syrian civil war first began in 2011. The U.N. approximated that over 13 million people in Syria were in need of some type of humanitarian assistance. Over 5 million people seek asylum in the surrounding countries of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic soared to the forefront of the humanitarian crisis.

Nearly one-third of Syria’s population is dealing with food insecurity partly due to an increase in food prices. The COVID-19 lockdown measures and the collapse of the Lebanese economy have caused food prices to increase by 200%. This makes them 20 times higher than they were before the civil war. Additionally, Syria’s local currency has been devalued by two-thirds. Consequently, people cannot afford to buy available food.

Efforts to Alleviate Hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic

  • Turkish Exports: In May 2020, the U.N. placed restrictions on exports as a way to combat the spread of COVID-19. Shortly after, the U.N. authorize Turkish exports to alleviate hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic. This aid from Turkey is a crucial survival source for 2.8 million people in the northwestern part of Syria.
  • Extending the Lifeline: The U.N.’s Emergency Relief is working to extend intraregional aid deliveries. The U.N. has authorized aid deliveries to the Syrian people in several resolutions since April 2012. The latest resolution, resolution 2504, was to expire in July 2020. On May 14, 2020, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres requested that the Security Council extend the authorization of this cross-border aid for another 12 months. In Guterres’ report, he noted that this U.N. cross-border operation helped an average of 2 million Syrians each month in 2019.
  • Large and Small-scale Efforts: Many formerly displaced people have returned to their land. However, many people are facing issues resuming food production. As of June 2020, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) introduced several programs to help more than 300,000 households at risk of food insecurity. About 155,000 households will directly benefit from livestock production support which includes vaccinations and anti-parasite treatments. On a smaller scale, about 3,000 households will benefit from better nutrition that local school food gardens provide.
  • Creative Solutions: Since 2012, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) has provided more than $3 billion in emergency food relief. In January 2020, USAID committed to providing emergency food assistance through two specific methods. Firstly, USAID is providing emergency food aid to newly displaced peoples through ready-to-eat rations, food vouchers and locally or regionally procured food baskets. Secondly, they are continuing to support local bakery inventions to help with the production of bread. The FFP has helped over 4 million people in Syria and over 1 million Syrian refugees since 2012. 

It is evident that hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic is the result of a combination of factors following the eruption of the civil war. International organizations and NGOs dedicated their resources to help the Syrian people, especially as COVID-19 threatens much of the progress that the country has previously made.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Flickr

Consequences of Violence in Nicaragua
Since April 2018, the citizens of Nicaragua have been protesting against its government. What started originally as a movement against changes to the social security program quickly turned into an opposition movement demanding President Daniel Ortega and his wife’s resignations. The protests turned violent when anti-government protesters clashed with pro-government protesters and police. As a result, these protests resulted in the killings of more than 300 people and about 2,000 people becoming injured. Here are the major consequences of violence in Nicaragua.

Human Rights Concerns

One of the consequences of violence in Nicaragua has been the concerns surrounding human rights abuses by the government. According to Human Rights Watch, the Ortega administration has violated Nicaraguan citizens’ human rights by “[banning] public demonstrations by any group critical of the government, (…) [stripping] nine non-governmental organizations of their legal registration, [shutting] down media outlets, [prosecuting] journalists under the anti-terrorism law, and [expelling] international monitors from the country. The Ortega government has harassed and threatened the media, human rights defenders and other members of civil society.”

Additionally, it appears that the Nicaraguan government is not only denying its people the freedoms they are entitled to, but it is also retaliating against the reports the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published. This becomes especially apparent by the government’s reactions to the release of these reports: “Following the high commissioner’s first report, the Ortega administration failed to hold perpetrators accountable for abuses and instead promoted senior officials who bear responsibility for killings and torture of demonstrators. In response to the high commissioner’s second report, the government has even defended the armed pro-government thugs that participated in repressing protests.”

Forced Migration

Additional consequences of the violence in Nicaragua is the forced displacement of 80,000 Nicaraguan citizens who are no longer able to live in their home country. Many are seeking asylum and refuge in neighboring countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico and the United States. Of the 33,000 asylum requests that Costa Rica received in this past year, the country has only processed about 4,900 leaving more than 28,000 people to seek refuge elsewhere. Due to the mass displacement of these Nicaraguan citizens, many must survive on temporary employment or none at all, leaving them to suffer as a result.

Limited Access to Resources

One of the major consequences of violence in Nicaragua is the limited access to necessary resources such as food and health care as a result of the unexpected roadblocks that continually appear throughout the country and the capital, Managua. It is rather unclear whether these roadblocks are government-sponsored or a result of government opposition leaders, however, these often lead to detours and inconveniences when Nicaraguans are attempting to access grocery stores and gas stations. Additionally, government hospitals across the country have begun denying treatment to those who they suspect of being a part of the anti-government movement, which has led to people being unable to receive any kind of treatment for their injuries.

Economic Growth Concerns

In the past, Nicaragua has maintained a steady economic growth rate. In 2017, the growth rate was 4.5 percent. However, in the last year, since the outbreak of violence and political unrest, the economy has contracted about 3.8 percent and the World Bank suspects that this contraction will grow up to 5 percent in 2019. These violent protests have caused many to lose their jobs, while also causing a decrease in consumer and business confidence. As a result, some fear that the violence in Nicaragua will cost recent progress the country has made in poverty reduction efforts.

During the years of 2014 and 2016, poverty rates in Nicaragua had fallen from 29.6 percent to 24.9 percent due to the support of international organizations such as the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). Additionally, the extreme poverty rate also dropped from 8.3 percent to 6.9 percent in the same timeframe. It is too early to predict what the poverty rates will be for Nicaragua in 2019, but there is speculation that poverty rates will rise again.

Efforts by International Organizations

After six weeks of protests, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the situation in Nicaragua by asking the government to consider allowing the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to visit the country. On many occasions, the U.N. has established its willingness to resolve the situation by acting as a mediator in “national dialogue efforts to strengthen the rule of law, respect for human rights and the peaceful resolution of differences.” Additionally, there have been requests for the government to investigate allegations of human rights violations in order to hold perpetrators accountable and to bring much-needed justice and peace of mind for victims’ relatives.

Furthermore, representatives for Amnesty International have spoken out condemning the Nicaraguan governments’ repression of its people. They also suggested the creation of a committee in order to prosecute those guilty of serious human rights violations and crimes. In a report released by Amnesty International titled “Shoot to kill: Nicaragua’s strategy to suppress protest,” there appears to be evidence of Nicaraguan paramilitary forces using lethal weapons against protesters, of which many were students. This report sheds light on the situation in Nicaragua and hopes to bring international awareness in order for others to take action against the repressive forces of the Nicaraguan government.

The consequences of violence in Nicaragua range from human rights concerns to limited access to health care and even issues regarding Nicaragua’s economic growth rate. Though there appears to be no end in sight, there is hope for Nicaragua’s citizens as international organizations attempt to raise awareness and investigate the ongoing crimes committed against the Nicaraguan people. The situation is far from resolution but as it gains more international interest, there is hope that efforts will not be in vain and that the country can find a peaceful resolution.

– Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

U.N. Secretary-General
Starting in 1946, the United Nations assigned its first Secretary-General while still in its infancy as an organization. His name was Trygve Lie from Norway, and there have been eight successors since; Antonio Guterres currently serving as U.N. Secretary-General.

 

The Role of a Secretary-General

The U.N. Charter, the foundational treaty of the U.N., describes the Secretary-General as “chief administrative officer” of the Organization, “who shall act in that capacity and perform ‘such other functions as are entrusted’ to him or her by the Security Council, General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and other United Nations organs.”

Overall, the U.N. Secretary-General is someone who is supposed to symbolize humanitarian ideals of equality and hold an interest for obtaining peace among nations.

On a day-to-day basis, the Secretary-General attends U.N. meetings, consults with world leaders and other state officials and must remain up-to-date on important international and national relations.

In times of crisis, the U.N. Secretary-General should take it upon his/herself to speak in front of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and rally support for action. This role requires the utmost responsibility to maintain international peace and security — if there are any conflicts occurring within or between borders that goes against human rights and international security, the Secretary-General must be aware and ready to rally support.

 

The Seventh Secretary-General

One man who truly upheld and set an example in his role as U.N. Secretary-General was Kofi Annan. Annan, born in Ghana, worked for many years with the U.N. before becoming Secretary-General in 1997.

Human dignity was central to Annan’s mission with the U.N. — he sought to advance human dignity in three predominant ways:

  1. He promoted human rights standards and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
  2. He worked through the U.N. institutions themselves to reform their machinery and ability to act (specifically by starting the Human Rights Council)
  3. He focused on zones of conflict to build U.N. operational efforts in needed locations

In the early 1990s, and prior to Annan’s entrance as a Secretary-General, the Cold War left the international field in a state of tension. In zones of conflict, such as during the Rwandan genocide, U.N. was seen in a negative light. Due to a lack of resources and a clear mandate for peacekeeping units to use force, the Rwandan genocide became known for its mass atrocities.

 

The Revolutionizing Ability of the Secretary-General

Annan had been Undersecretary-General at the time, and vowed to make positive changes starting in 1997; specifically, he wanted to make human rights a concept known and promoted for every member state. While the idea of protecting human rights was casually thrown around in the mid-late 20th Century, it was never fully given the attention it deserved.

During the World Summit in September 2005, all governments in attendance recognized the R2P and even gave it the nickname of being the “Annan doctrine” due to the intense lobbying the Secretary-General did during his years in office for human rights. The R2P meant that all governments within the U.N. clearly accepted their collective responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Never before had a Secretary-General put so much effort into humanitarian causes and the protection of birth right; but during Annan’s 10 years in office, U.N. peacekeeping grew both in terms of scale and efficacy. The governing body also increased the annual budget for U.N. peacekeeping from $1 billion in 1997 to $5 billion in 2006. Annan transformed not only the role of the U.N. and its member states, but positively impacted the lives of thousands (if not millions) of people.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr

director of unicef
U.S. businesswoman and former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and director of U.S. Foreign Assistance, Henrietta Holsman Fore, became the seventh executive director of the U.N. International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on January 1, 2018. Fore is replacing Anthony Lake as director, whose term began in 2010. The following are 10 facts about the new director of UNICEF.

  1. Fore was the first woman to hold the position of USAID administrator, which she served concurrently while being the director of U.S. Foreign Assistance from 2007 to 2009.
  2. Prior to her senior roles in the U.S. Department of State, Fore was the 37th director of the U.S. Mint. She initiated the 50 State Quarters Program and introduced laser engraving during her tenure.
  3. She was the chairman and CEO of her family’s investment and management company, Holsman International. She also was connected to at least 14 other companies, nonprofits and think tanks, according to her professional LinkedIn page, including the Aspen Institute, the Center for Global Development, General Mills and ExxonMobil.
  4. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres announced Fore’s appointment as executive director of UNICEF on December 22, 2017. The announcement received acclaim from multiple organizations, including the U.S. State Department and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  5. Fore was chosen by Guterres in consultation with the executive board of the U.N. The executive director position of UNICEF has gone to the U.S. candidate since the organization’s creation in 1947.
  6. Fore is committed to modernizing and revitalizing foreign assistance. In a 2008 keynote address to the Center for Global Development, she discussed reforming priorities to meet the most critical needs, promoting program coordination among agencies and increasing the number of U.S. foreign assistance personnel.
  7. To Chief Executives Organization, American diplomat John Negroponte said, “[Fore] likes to roll up her sleeves…she’s an incessant traveler.” In a speech at the 2014 International Financial Forum, Fore said she had traveled to countries such as Indonesia, Turkey, Nigeria, Egypt, Brazil and India.
  8. At the same forum, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described Fore as, “one of the best appointments that I made,” and as, “one of the best public servants I’ve ever met.”
  9. Fore’s appointment aids Guterres’ mission for gender parity at U.N. senior leadership levels by 2021 and throughout the whole organization before 2030. Current findings suggest there is an inverse relationship between women’s representation and seniority at the U.N.
  10. As executive director of UNICEF, Fore will head one of the most important agencies within the U.N. The organization’s budget was $5 billion in 2017, the second largest of the U.N. agencies.

In his announcement, outgoing UNICEF director Anthony Lake said, “Henrietta Fore will bring a wealth of experience to UNICEF’s work for children.” Her appointment certainly excites individuals committed to ending global extreme poverty, and it will be compelling to witness what UNICEF accomplishes under Fore’s leadership.

– Sean Newhouse

Photo: Flickr

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres of Portugal became Secretary-General of the U.N. on Jan. 1, 2017, following Ban Ki-moon.

If the name Antonio Guterres does not sound familiar, then these ten facts will be sure to provide a thorough education about the man who hopes to change the world we live in during his time serving as Secretary-General.

  1. Guterres grew up during an age of change in Portugal. Antonio Guterres’ childhood was mostly spent under the military dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar. After the 1974 revolution, Guterres identified as a Portuguese socialist, witnessing change in the country’s government.
  2. According to the Guardian, Antonio Guterres was known as a “fearsome orator” during his time in Parliament, known to destroy his opponents’ arguments with clear and logical facts. Guterres later said his time in Parliament helped prepare him for the large speaking role that comes with being Secretary-General of the U.N.
  3. He is a family man. During his time as Prime Minister of Portugal, Guterres’ wife Luísa Guimarães e Melo became severely ill and had to receive treatment at a hospital in London. Despite working long hours in Portugal during the week, Guterres would fly to London on the weekends to spend time with his wife before returning bright and early Monday morning. On top of this enormous amount of stress, Guterres had two young children to look after and was known to spend a lot of time with them whenever he was home.
  4. He cared too much about his country to let it fall into a “political swamp.” After his party showed weakness and was in danger of a serious restructuring, Guterres resigned his position as Prime Minister, citing that even “politics has its limits.”
  5. He left national politics to focus on the world. After his resignation, Guterres spent time reflecting on what he wanted to do next. He knew that he “never wanted to return to national politics,” and eventually decided on making a difference in the world. He began doing so as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
  6. He is a champion for “people on the move.” Antonio Guterres made tremendous strides for refugees during his time as UNHCR, particularly in widening the scope of who the U.N. would help when it came to migrants and displaced people.
  7. His mission is social justice, equality and peace. In an opinion piece for Newsweek, Guterres writes, “As secretary-general of the U.N., I have called for a surge in diplomacy for peace and appealed for 2017 to be a year for peace. The U.N. was born from war. Today, we must be here for peace.” He seeks to achieve his goals on a global scale, and believes he can do so in the five years he has as Secretary-General.
  8. He is an avid reader. President of Refugees International Dr. Michel Gabaudan says that whenever Antonio Guterres visited Washington D.C., he would check out the bookstore Politics & Prose, spending whatever time he had searching for English books that were not easy to find in Europe.
  9. He supports women’s equality and wants to see a better representation of women in the U.N. “Generally, no one likes to lose positions they have long held,” Antonio Guterres shared on the floor of the U.N., “but the reality of gender parity is that many more women will be in positions that today are occupied by men. But that’s a good thing.”
  10. He is committed to people. Antonio Guterres’ policies as Prime Minister of Portugal and at UNHCR have been formed with people in mind, and he doesn’t intend to change this anytime soon. The U.N. must focus on “people rather than bureaucracy,” he writes in his Newsweek opinion article.

The next five years look bright under Antonio Guterres’ guidance. Hopefully, the U.N. will adapt to the world we live in today and ensure the future is peaceful and equal, just as the new Secretary-General is working hard to do.

Jacqueline Nicole Artz

Photo: Flickr

António Guterres, Former Head of UNHCR, Named New U.N. Secretary General
In early October, the 15 ambassadors that make up the U.N.’s Security Council were presented with the challenging decision of choosing a new secretary-general. The vote was characterized as the most important decision from the U.N. this year. In the end, António Guterres, the former socialist prime minister of Portugal, was nominated as the new U.N. secretary-general.

Guterres was favored for the position for many months leading up to the actual vote. He accepted the nomination from Lisbon after the Council’s decision and did so with “gratitude and humility.”

He will replace current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in January. Historically, the Security Council has been polarized in their decision-making, so the consensual conclusion to choose Guterres was met with his resounding agreement. Guterres described the decision as an “exemplary process of transparency and openness.”

The decision to choose António Guterres ignored the Council’s traditions of rotating the presidency based on region. The only region that hasn’t held the presidency is Eastern Europe, which is one reason why Danilo Turk, a former Slovenian president, and Irina Bokova, a Bulgarian director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), finished closely behind Guterres in the vote.

The Council also ignored external pressures to elect a woman secretary-general, despite seven of the 13 candidates begin female. Well aware of this, Guterres has pledged to exercise gender equity as he moves forward with his new position.

After acting as the prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002, Guterres was elected to serve as the head of the U.N.’s High Commission for Refugees. While serving in this position, Guterres repeatedly called for humanitarian action from countries with appropriate resources.

In particular, after U.N. agencies failed to meet funding goals that would provide humanitarian aid for displaced peoples in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, Guterres called for financial commitment from Western countries.

His experience leading a major U.N. institution was looked at as a huge strength in the voting process. He has promised to demonstrate “the humility that is needed to serve especially those that are most vulnerable.”

Guterres will have to face many difficult challenges as he moves forward with his new position of leadership, like maintaining and negotiating support from Russia and the U.S. and facing the impacts of the global refugee crisis.

Despite these inevitable challenges, the ambassadors of the Security Council are confident that Guterres will be able to act justly and level-headedly as the new U.N. secretary-general.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

 

Ending Global Poverty

The race for the position of “top diplomat” is on. The role of the United Nations Secretary-General involves spearheading initiatives toward ending global poverty, presiding over thousands of staffers and agencies and establishing world peace.

For the first time ever, the candidates presented their vision of the U.N. to the General Assembly in New York. They took questions from the public, governments and journalists in a townhall format, breaking free from tradition.

A common theme at the General Assembly among candidates was finding political solutions to conflict and ending global poverty. Irina Bokova, head of UNESCO, said enhancing the prevention of conflict and violence through political solutions and diplomacy should be the core task of the U.N.

Vensa Pusic, former Foreign Minister of Croatia, also mentioned the inequality over scarce resources as drivers of conflict. “For all the progress that has been made, too many people have been left behind,” Pusic said, according to IRIN News. “This is morally wrong, but it is also a threat to peace and security.”

The candidates also discussed taking a U.N. approach that recognizes the links between sustainable development, peace and security, human rights and humanitarian relief.

Former Moldovan Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman said that there needs to be enhanced coordination between humanitarian and development communities. Similarly, former U.N. Refugees Leader Antonio Guterres noted that the U.N. needs to “strengthen the nexus between peace and security, sustainable development and human rights policies,” IRIN news reports.

The impact of climate change was another theme among candidates. Macedonian economist Srgjan Kerim said the U.N. should be the driving force in addressing global warming. He also said developing countries are the most exposed to climate change impacts and that their special needs must be high on the Secretary-General’s agenda.

In addition, the question of funding setbacks for humanitarian assistance was addressed. Vuk Jeremic, former President of the U.N. General Assembly offered a solution. He called for a special envoy to mobilize resources to address shortfalls, with emphasis on Middle Eastern and African refugee crisis and disaster relief. Jeremic noted that this would improve coordination of humanitarian relief, support and assistance to refugees.

The U.N. Security Council will make a recommendation for the top position in the U.N. and commence informal straw polls in closed meetings. The winner will be selected in September, declared in October and begin their term January 1, 2017.

Kerri Whelan

Photo: Flickr